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Archdiocese of New York Determined to Be Competitive Again Despite School Closings

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News that another Catholic school plans to close comes just weeks after lawmakers failed to pass a tax credit that would have helped religious schools, but it may surprise you that some Catholic school officials are optimistic about the future. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

A parochial school is closing. This time, it's Bishop Ford Central Catholic High in Brooklyn. It doesn't have enough students, it doesn't have enough money, and the outlook for enrollment and finances is bleak, short-term and long-term.

It's a story that's been told to dozens of individual communities in the past three years here in the city alone. In the last 250 years, New York State has lost 250 Catholic schools.

Bishop Ford won't be the only school to close this June. Mother Cabrini High School plans to shut its doors after 115 years in Washington Heights.

"It's a very sad, surreal loss to the community, to the students and their families," said Bruce Segall, president of Mother Cabrini High School.

Parochial schools face several challenges. Staffing costs have risen exponentially, as the number of teaching nuns, priests and religious brothers has decreased in the past several decades. In addition, enrollment has dropped as families' choices within the public school system expanded dramatically under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. There are now hundreds of additional free options, open to students across the city.

However, the Archdiocese of New York is determined to become competitive again.

"There's public schools, there's charter schools, and we want to be on the map, we want to be a choice for these families, as Catholic schools have been," said Jill Kafka of The Partnership for Inner-City Education.

Jill Kafka is running one of the big experiments happening right now. In September, her nonprofit organization took over the day-to-day operations - including finances, academics and enrollment - at six Catholic schools in Harlem and the Bronx. It's the first time the Archdiocese has let an outside group manage its schools.

"We also hope to accomplish stability in our set of six schools, but also, just generally sharing best practices that bring stability in the schools, so that they system can last and actually get strengthened and continue to serve the kids for generations to come.

So far, enrollment is up more than 6 percent at those schools, and after closing two dozen elementary schools last year, this year, the Archdiocese of New York doesn't plan to close a single one.

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